- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming yesterday acknowledged that climate change is not responsible for California’s devastating wildfires, but members of the committee nonetheless blamed President Bush, land development and the theoretical fallout of rising temperatures for an increase in national forest fires.

“Not since Hurricane Katrina slammed the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts have so many suffered from extreme weather,” said committee Chairman Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, evoking images of 2005’s devastating hurricane. That storm damage, in part, has been attributed to climate change by the news media and many members of Congress.

Mr. Markey quickly added, “Global warming does not cause an individual fire or hurricane, and global warming is not the cause of the California fires.”

California authorities have said that at least one of the fires was started by a child playing with matches.

“Death and destruction aren’t the only thing wildfires and hurricanes share in common. They are both now being used as poster children for global warming,” said the committee’s ranking Republican, F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin.

Nonetheless, Rep. Jay Inslee, Washington Democrat, invoked Mr. Bush’s name at least a dozen times in less than two minutes yesterday, saying, “The policies of George Bush are killing these forests.”

Mr. Inslee asked U.S. Forest Service chief Abigail Kimbell whether she had told Mr. Bush that his forest policies were wrongheaded. Ms. Kimbell said she hadn’t.

While Ms. Kimbell said climate change was likely contributing to droughts and early spring snowmelts that can worsen the impact of wildfires, she told the committee, “Climate change models lack the ability to provide projections at the detailed scale that is most useful to land managers and local and regional planners.”

A recent statement by researchers at the University of California at Merced, and the University of Arizona said it’s too early to blame the fires on climate change. “At present, the connection between global warming, Santa Ana winds, and extremely low Southern California precipitation last winter are not known with sufficient certainty to conclusively link global warming with this disaster,” the statement reads.

The White House came under criticism this week for deleting six pages of a report on the effects of global warming in advance of testimony by Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Julie Gerberdine, who appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday.

“Forest fires are expected to increase in frequency, severity, distribution and duration,” reads a portion of the deleted text.

Environmental groups have also been quick to blame climate change for California’s wildfires.

“If global warming continues unchecked, we can expect to see more and more catastrophic fires like the ones in California,” read a statement from Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope that was distributed at yesterday’s hearing.

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